RIBA 2017 award winners announced
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced the 49 winners of its annual National Awards. The competition is designed to recognise and reward buildings across the UK which have been recognised as making a significant contribution to the world of architecture, and past winners have included many famous buildings from world famous architects.
As always, the award winners represent the full spectrum of architecture, from power stations to individual houses, and represent the cutting edge of the British school of architecture which will shape the next decade. There are several interesting trends which stand out.
Our leading architects have retained their fondness for brick work, and are once again pushing the material into new and exciting realms. Perhaps the stand out example of what is achievable with bricks is the Tate Modern Blavatnik Building which adds a range of new galleries and educational spaces to the impressive array already on offer at the Tate Modern. The combination of a new chain mail brick façade technique and a design which incorporates unusual angles has allowed the creation of a building which works contextually with the previously-existing development but also manages to feel unique and iconic. The Blavatnik Building is both imposing and elegant, and has the feel of a building which will continue to be relevant and amaze far into the future.
Other interesting uses of brickwork this year include the closely detailed Laboratory at Dulwich College which makes a virtue out of precision finishing, and the 112 new homes at Silchester which use brickwork as art, creating expressive and detailed facades which set the dwellings apart from other similar projects.
Other materials which continue to prove popular are timber and weathering steel. Shawm house, a privately designed and built house in the Northumberland countryside, provides one of the best examples of how timber can be used to enhance a dwelling which I have ever seen. The blend of timber, glass and brick combines to produce a building which is bursting with personality and soul and which is designed to fit into the context of the surrounding area perfectly. The timber façade is reflective of the pastoral nature of the surrounding land, but also injects a man-made beauty defined by precise sharp lines into the area. It is a testament to the skill of the self-taught designer that Shawm House is both thoroughly contemporary and yet still suits the surroundings.
By contrast, South Street uses weathering steel to make its point – but this does not make it any less beautiful than the more natural timber used at Shawm House. South Street is located on an interesting and challenging site, bounded by a river on one side and cliffs on the other. Thankfully, the architect did not shrink from the challenge and decided to create something striking and ambitious. The weathering CorTen steel contrasts dramatically with the white cliff face behind the building and the gently flowing river in the foreground, making the dwelling something of a showpiece.
Finally, many of the winners share an innovative approach to angular building which mimics the best kind of art by playing with people’s expectations and making them reconsider what is possible and what the built environment could potentially be like. From the 49 winners, the overall winner will be selected and receive the Stirling Prize which honours the RIBA building of the year and sets the benchmark for next year’s entrants.